Skip to main content

tv   [untitled]    February 11, 2012 11:30pm-12:00am EST

11:30 pm
agitators, radicals, communists, upsetting a stable racial relationship in the south as portrayed by southern whites, even southern white moderates. i became increasingly fascinated by the pal levels between the by the parallels between the time and place in which i was living in the early 1960s, border state city like baltimore engulfed by these cities in the deeper south. between that and what happened
11:31 pm
hundreds of years earlier in the early 1860s, confrontation between the federal government and southern political leaders who were vowing massive resistance to national laws, violence in conflict, violence far greater scale 1860s than 1960s but violence nonetheless. martin luther king trying to get president kennedy to issue a new emancipation proclamation on the 100th anniversary of the first one. the march on washington in 1963. all of these things were crowding together in the early 1960s. that's when i made the decision not at first a very popular decision with professor woodward to shift my focus from looking at the first reconstruction in a state like alabama to looking at the role of the abolitionist after the beginning of the civil war and after the abolition of slavery, which was a preoccupation of my scholarship for the next 15 years with a dissertation and book that grew
11:32 pm
out of it, "the struggle for equality." second book "the negro civil war," which was really a spinoff of the struggle for equality and then abolitionist story, carrying second and third generation down to the founding of the naacp which at the time was called new abolitionist movement in 1909 and 1910. that brought me to the middle of
11:33 pm
the 1970s. a couple of things occurred then to triangle the trajectory of my career in a major way. one has been mentioned but hasn't been discussed in any way that is the vietnam war and reaction to the vietnam war in the late 1960s and late 1970s. that made me more and more aware of the connection between protest movements, the military, and the political context in which both the war and anti-war movement protests against it took place. in other words, the connection to politics and to the military became increasingly a focus of my thinking. i think the climate of the times. and in 1976, textbook publisher approached me and asked me about writing a new textbook to take the place of the old james c. randolph by then randall donald on civil war and reconstruction, perhaps naively and foolishly i agreed to under take that project. that evolved five years later into a college textbook ordeal by fire.
11:34 pm
at the same time van woodward approached me about writing a volume in the oxford history of the united states, which turned out after first going to be the guilded age reconstruction guilded age volume to be the antebellum and civil war volume and somewhat naively having signed one contract in 1976, i signed a second contract also in 1976, which, of course, enslaved me, i suppose one might say, for the next decade to research and write both those books. that experience growing out of also the kind of increasing awareness of the interconnection of social protests, social movements, politics and war was amplified by my experience in writing those two books, starting in 1976 and culminating in the publication in 1988 of "battle cry of freedom."
11:35 pm
i came to my point of view on the subjects that i was originally interested in, the abolitionist and black radical protest movements in the 1860s and after evolved into i think something more complex. i came to appreciate and understand abraham lincoln much more than i originally had like all young scholars as a graduate student and beginning historian i tended to absorb the point of view of the people i was writing about, looking at their speeches and writings and letters. and the abolitionists were quite critical of abraham lincoln. first for his slowness to move against slavery and once he had actually begun to move against slavery, his gradualism and
11:36 pm
conservatism on the question of racial equal rights. my early work reflected that critical perspective on lincoln but i came to appreciate much more once i got into looking at all sides of these questions, the political and military. the kinds of pressures on lincoln from all sides, right, left, middle, north, south, border state and the skill he navigated through these political mine fields and military mine fields during his presidency and experience as commander in chief. i also came to see the interconnection between what i had originally been interested in, slavery and its abolition
11:37 pm
and the political context in which that process took place. and eventually the military context in which both these social protest movements and the political experience of the 1860s took place. i was particularly struck by something lincoln said in his inaugural address, when he pointed out, as he put it, upon the progress of our arms all else chiefly depends. that sums up the reason why as joe says, i have become, after not starting out that way and no formal training on the subject something of a military historian as well as an historian of the abolitionist movement, the anti-slavery movement, abraham lincoln and civil war and reconstruction
11:38 pm
period. i came to see that as mao said all power grows from the barrel of a gun. that was true during the civil war and reconstruction period. as a consequence i've come to see if we are to understand the process by which slavery was abolished in the transition to freedom fitfully began during the war and especially reconstruction period and the way in which america was radically changed by the experience of the civil war, i needed to understand the military context in which that had taken place. so from having been a historian from the abolitionist and anti-slavery and politics of civil war and reconstruction, i
11:39 pm
added another layer of being an historian of military course of the civil war. every time i do a battlefield tour i've done, i've done many of them over the years, i try to make that interconnection clear to the people on the tours. we're not talking about tactics and command decisions made on the battlefield but rather on the interconnection between what took place at gettysburg or fredericksburg or wherever we might be and the political context of the time and its consequences for the world in which we live today. with that i think i will sit down and we will entertain questions from the audience. [ applause ]
11:40 pm
>> if someone has a comment or question, if you would please go to the microphone, you can address it to anyone on the panel or speak. please identify yourself. >> my name is daryl stover out of north carolina. very loud mic. my question is to the whole panel but maybe even more specifically to our honoree. there may have been some directions pointed in the comments given by the panelist. but for me, and especially in these times, my question is what are the important questions we may now start to examine or may point the way for other historians to come relative to looking at the war and its aftermath, relative to african-americans and this whole notion of a long reconstruction.
11:41 pm
>> let me just briefly comment on that. i think going back at least to the 1930s with w.b. dubois long neglected but now appreciated book "black reconstruction," the impact of the war on ordinary people, not just african-americans but others in america has been an important subject of research in the last 15 or 20 years with respect to african-americans even longer, i think. that's i think kind of a development that will continue and should continue because this was an experience that perhaps more than any other single experience of americans going back more than 2 or 300 years profoundly reshaped the world in which ordinary americans in the
11:42 pm
south lived. i think that is the direction scholarship has been going in for the last 10 or more years, more than that and will continue to go and should continue to go. >> does anyone else want to add anything? katherine? >> several times people ask about the new work and the field of civil war history. i think it's been the most exciting time. certainly when i went to princeton, i never imagined i would end up a civil war historian indeed in the vietnam era that was indeed in a time of great strife over the position of the invisible in history. but i think it's been exciting that in the past quarter century, especially, when we look at the sesquicentennial as opposed to the centennial of the american war and see the way in
11:43 pm
which civil war history has been redefined certainly the scholarship in the field of women's history has gone a far piece from mary massey's bonnet brigade which was commissioned
11:44 pm
during the centenary and thavolia's fine call to walk the battle fields. there are many battle fields we need to continue to struggle with. one is to be inclusive of all of those. there's still, i promise you, great topics on this. i went to northern ireland the year the queen withdrew the troops. so it's a kind of reconstruction in northern ireland. one of the things i was struck by was the way in which the students i teach american history to have a different question about reconstruction and battles. they come up with wonderful topics and are pursuing things like the role of the french in the american civil war, french speaking troops. i think we're in a time of great diversity, great expansion. it's wonderful and exciting. i think jim mcpherson has been so receptive and inclusive to this that my second book was the other civil war, which came out of a lecture he allowed me to give in his undergraduate course. we really have, in many ways, he perhaps alarmed his advisers by going in a different direction. when i went down south to do my work, i rode the bus, so i didn't have to worry about those license plates. thank you for your question. >> i think it's important to remember that jim reminded us of contingency.
11:45 pm
we read a letter last night, asked jim how many more soldiers from the confederacy would it take to have won for the confederacy and he replied to the student none, that, in fact, we now have contingency in the civil war. i don't think historians have given contingency to reconstruction. i think we have to look back at reconstruction with the same ideas we did with the civil war when i came along when it was assumed there was no way that the confederacy could win. i'd also like to remind people we too easily forget because we saw the outcome and how the union wins, that with the civil war, the direction of history was going differently. after the american revolution, we have these revolutionary movements toward popular government. you have the french revolution. then you have the failures of 1848, the revolutions there. you have the republics that are failing in latin america and mexico.
11:46 pm
you have maximillan put on the throne, in fact, in mexico. even though garibaldi, the great hero of democracy on two continents reunites italy, becomes a monarchy, the confederacy is the direction of history, part of lincoln's last best hope that is also about popular government, people can govern themselves. a real change. out of the war something jim has written about, the change of the 13th, 14th, 15th amendment toward a positive liberty. before that the government was always guaranteeing the rights of the states. now you have the rights of individuals promise not to be slave, treated equally and right to vote. this changes our definition of liberty and freedom throughout the world that once again becomes the inspiration for better and nobler things for the revolution. those are things as we
11:47 pm
contextualize and think about the civil war reconstruction for some great work that scholars are now engaged in, particularly younger students. please. >> my question is for professor mcpherson and it deals with the issue of contingency that they have talked about. if i remember correctly in the book "battle cry of freedom" you maintained pretty much the traditional view, my view and the view most people i know, that gettysburg and vicksburg combined were the turning point. since then you've had a book you put out on antietam. is it still your position pretty much the turning point took place at gettysburg and vicksburg or have your views evolved since then? >> i think i identified what i called four major turning points in the civil war, and i think i would stick with that. the first one was actually a turning point from what looked like inevitable union victory in the spring of 1862 with all of
11:48 pm
the union successes in the western theater and along the south atlantic coast. with mclellan's army of the potomac, 100,000 strong looking like any day here at the beginning of june they were going to march into richmond. could the confederacy have survived this succession of defeats climaxed by the capture of their capital. but of course we know counter-offensives by the army of virginia and other confederate armies turned that situation around. so that by the late summer of 1862 rather than being in danger of losing capital, confederate armies crossed potomac river and threatening to cross the ohio river. then the battle of antietam, of somewhat less importance but significance nonetheless, battle of perryville in the fall of
11:49 pm
1862 stopped that seemingly inevitable confederate momentum. i would argue that was the second turning point, this time in favor or at least stopping confederate momentum. but that momentum revived in the spring of 1863 and was stopped again by gettysburg and vicksburg and later in the fall chattanooga. so that was the third turning point. as i and others have written, it looked like the north was prepared to throw in the towel in the summer of 1864 because of huge casualties without any kind of progress in both virginia and georgia. in august of 1864, lincoln was sure he would lose re-election, the re-election on grounds of military failure. yet with the fall of atlanta and the union victories in the shenandoah valley and 1864 and
11:50 pm
re-election of lincoln, i see that as the final and decisive turning point. i argue that each one of these could have gone in a differenee decisive turning point. it was only particular factors in each case that we're not for ordained in any particular way. the fall of atlanta in 1864 was no more than the fall of richmond had been in june of 1862. that's when i meant by contingency, we need to understand in each of these cases why and how it was that these events turned out the way they did rather than in some other way, but they could easily turned out in a different way. >> jim, you were doing to say something. >> i find myself still challenged by the model of historical transformation that the battle cry of freedom represents in particular the way
11:51 pm
it synthesizes the various social, political, economic factors that go into the outcome of the civil war. in particular, i guess, the real challenge for us is the political and the social, if you think of politics as -- as war of politics by other means, which is one of many things that jim taught me. i'd like to see more effort on the part of the political historians to knowledge the social revolution and a more willingness on the part of social historians to acknowledge the significance of the political so that we understand better why republicans going into the war assumed correctly that slaves would run to union laws and that would be a crucial part of the e man pags process and we need to understand that the sleeves understood the place to run was not confederate lines
11:52 pm
but the union lines. there tends to be too nuch separation between these to explanations for the origins of things during the civil war. i think jim pointed a different way in battle cry of freedom. i'm still challenged by that. i don't think it's easy to do that kind of thing, but i think that's where we have to go. >> did someone else have a comment on the panel? do we have anyone else? jerry. >> i teach at lawrence university and proud to say i was a graduate student. mic went off. i'll talk louder.
11:53 pm
jimmy question for you is if a college senior came and said i want to be an american historian, what would be your voice for him? >> or her. >> or her. >> my advice would be to go to one of the universities where my distinguished colleagues teach and study wthathey want to purs. in recent years i think one of the more exciting developments as been a new scholarship in the history of the american revolution in the early republic. people like david fisher, gordon wood and brown and sko l scholars have been doing forthe american revolution and the early republic what i and others have tried to do for the civil war and reconstruction period. that's only one area.
11:54 pm
i always tell college seniors at princeton when they were tried to find a subject for their senior thesis or graduate students looki ining for a topi the first requirement is something you have to be interested in. i talked about the way in which i was going to do a dissertation on alabama reconstruction but grew cool for a variety of reasons about that. despite my mentors initial unhappiness with my change of choice moved to another subject which was one that had come to interest me far more and looking back on that i'm sure that if i had pursued alabama reconstruction, my whole career might have been different. the first requirement is it's
11:55 pm
got to be something that really turns you on, that lights a fire under you. you're going to spend years on research and writing and rewriting of this dissertation and it has to be something that you're really fascinating with, and in a larger sense, i think that's true giving advice to a college senior. a lot of my colleagues will say don't go into the profession of history because there's no jobs in the field. you have an experience like that yourself. you became a lawyer rather than per suing your first love of history. after 11 years of being a lawyer you decided to pursue your first love of history. i give that advice to seniors. even though the job market looks bad now and maybe it will look bad five or six years from now when you're trying to get a job,
11:56 pm
if you don't try to make a career out of what you really like, you're going to be unhappy. >> i would add having looked at jim and pat's life and things with all the problems that we have today in the history profession, i would maintain a good example here is last best profession in america. thank you all. thank you all for coming here. thank you, jim. thank you the whole panel. appreciate it. [ applause ]
11:57 pm
for more information follow us on twitter at cspan history. . an air of mystery has surrounded this bronze likeness of alexander hamilton. in dedicating the 10-foot tall figure that greets visitors to the treasury department. it might have been the gift of andrew miller who admirers like to describe as the greatest secretary of the treasury since hamilton himself. sculpted by james earl frazier,
11:58 pm
hamilton wears a slightly quizzical look on his face. it was his famous deal is that led to federal assumption of state debts in return of the capitol's removal of money mad new york to an entirely new city. the pedestal on which he stands makes to reference to his reality transactions. it pays tribute instead to his financial genius. he touched the dead corpse of the public credit and it sprang upon its feet. throughout the weekend here watch personal interviews about
11:59 pm
history events on oral histories. our history bookshelf features some of the best known writers. revisit battles and events during the civil war. visit college classrooms during lectures in history. the presidency looks at the policies and lek sis of past american presidents. view our complete schedule at each week, american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the country's college professors. you can watch the classes here every saturday at 7:00 p.m. eastern and sundays at 1:00 p.m. this week, professor warren goldstein at the university of hartford where he discussed martin luther king jr.s time in alabama and the civil rights movement there in 1963.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on